Spring training does a lot outside of players getting reps for the upcoming season. It also gives front offices and coaches the chance to see how players perform in live in-game situations.
This year, for the Orioles, there have been many questions about the starting rotation, and now the questions are starting to be asked about the bullpen.
There have been six players this year in the bullpen that we have split into two categories, those who have shined and those who have struggled. Therefore, the question of who deserves a spot in the bullpen will be answered to an extent based on how the players’ spring has gone thus far.
Shine: Keegan Akin
After a surprising stellar 2022 season, Keegan Akin is having a spring training to remember.
The 27-year-old lefty had been very hit and miss prior to the 2022 season but has almost guaranteed a spot in the O’s bullpen for the 2023 season.
Akin’s spring training has currently consisted of a 0.00 ERA in three games, five total innings pitched. He has two holds and has given up three hits, walked one and has tallied five punchouts, holding batters to a .176 batting average and a WHIP of 0.80.
Akin will be entering his fourth season in the major leagues, and he keeps improving every year. He will hopefully keep this momentum up and make the Opening Day roster as a middle reliever/lefty option.
Prediction: Makes Opening Day roster
Struggle: Joey Krehbiel
There’s no beating around the bush. Joey Krehbiel has been absolutely horrendous so far this spring.
Krehbiel, after being claimed off waivers in 2021, had a solid 2022 season, carrying a 3.90 ERA in 56 games, 57.2 innings pitched. But he has taken a complete downfall in the early days of 2023.
Krehbiel currently carries a 19.64 ERA in just four games, 3.2 inning pitched. He does have one hold, but he has given up eight hits, eight earned runs and four home runs. He has compiled up a .400 opponent’s batting average and has a WHIP of 2.45.
Krehbiel was a trustworthy right-hander out of the pen in 2022, and despite entering just his fourth season and being 30 years old, the clock might be ticking a little quicker than we think on Krehbiel. He will most likely still make the Opening Day roster due to Dillon Tate being sidelined and the fact that O’s manager Brandon Hyde trusts him.
Prediction: Makes Opening Day roster, possible bounce between majors & Triple-A
Shine: Logan Gillaspie
Logan Gillaspie was a delight to see in his rookie season, as he carried a 3.12 ERA in 17 games, 17.1 innings pitched. However, in spring thus far, Gillaspie has been downright unstoppable on the mound.
Gillaspie currently has a 0.00 ERA in five games, five innings pitched. He has only given up two hits, both being singles, and has struck out seven while allowing just two walks. He also has one hold and has held batters to a .111 batting average with a WHIP of 0.80.
Gillaspie was thrown between Triple-A Norfolk and Baltimore in 2022, with a couple of games in Bowie, but his best outings were with the Orioles.
However, I do think that he will begin the season in Norfolk as a late-inning bullpen arm and be a player that is once again back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues.
Prediction: Starts in Triple-A Norfolk bullpen, possible bounce around with the Orioles
Struggle: Bryan Baker
Another reliever that has been mighty disappointing in spring training is Bryan Baker, who had a solid 2022 season as a middle reliever. In 66 games, he carried a 3.49 ERA and secured three total holds, but his spring this year tells a whole different story.
Baker has appeared in five games and carries a 15.43 ERA and 0-2 record. He has also walked and struck out four batters, has a .435 opponent’s average, a 3.00 WHIP and has given up eight runs and 10 total hits.
Baker spent the entire 2022 season on the big league roster as a bullpen piece and, despite the struggle, will most likely keep his position.
While he’s had a rough go so far, he was essentially considered a lock in the pen prior to Grapefruit League action beginning.
Prediction: Makes Opening Day roster
Shine: Nolan Hoffman
To start off about Nolan Hoffman, we must go back to a comment I made about him in an earlier article.
“Hoffman could be a lights-out reliever in the future if he can put together a full season on the farm.” Spring training isn’t ‘the farm,’ but the point still stands, as Hoffman has been nothing but lights-out.
The 25-year-old right-hander has been almost thrown into the closer role this spring. In five games, Hoffman has four saves, a 0.00 ERA, has given up one hit, walked just one batter and has six punchouts. He has also held batters to a .077 average and has a WHIP of 0.55.
While Hoffman has been unstoppable, he is not taking the closer spot from Félix Bautista and will not be making the big league roster on Opening Day. Hoffman still needs a little time to develop, but I expect him to make his MLB debut for the Orioles this season.
Prediction: Starts in Double-A, makes MLB debut this year
Struggle: Mike Baumann
Baumann has been maybe the best struggling pitcher this spring, if that makes any sense at all. He has always struggled in the big leagues, but he has never struggled like he has this spring.
Baumann has carried a 5.89 ERA in 17 games in his major league career. He has a 10.29 ERA in three games, seven innings pitched, so far this spring.
He is 0-2 on save opportunities, has given up seven total hits, eight earned runs, four home runs, five walks and has 10 strikeouts. He also has a .250 batting average against him and a 1.71 WHIP.
In hindsight, it just seems like he has an issue with giving up the long ball, and while that is a problem, it’s not considered the problem. The problem is that Baumann hasn’t had command of most of his pitches.
Baumann spent time in both the bullpen and starting rotation between the big league club and Norfolk in 2022, and that is what I expect to happen again this season. Baumann is not someone who has shown that he can be used in late-game situations.
Prediction: Starts in Triple-A Norfolk, same situation as Gillaspie
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